This is part three of an ongoing series. In part two, Moyo wrote about the greatness of the Yoruba people.
I come from a huge family, a country bordering three continents and my experiences are vast. I will be sharing them in time. In the great tradition of Alex Haley, one of the greatest writers America has ever seen, I continue this series.
By the time I was 10 years old, still living in Lagos, Nigeria, I was ready to start what in America they call middle school. However, in Nigeria they call it Secondary School, and instead of grade six, it is called Form 1. The school was called the Maryland Secondary School and was run by Irish Catholic nuns. I remember being told that every piece in the chapel was imported from Ireland, up to and including the Stations of the Cross plaques on the sides of the church.
It was in that church and school, some 45 years later, that I was to get married to the “ballerina.” The first black and Nigerian woman to attend the prestigious British Royal School of Ballet, from age five to 15. Over 25 famous Nigerian families signed the marriage certificate at the exclusive reception in the Sheraton Hotel. Her father, a famous doctor at Georgetown and now, I believe, a professor emeritus at California State University, used to drop by and pick her up from the Royal Ballet School in his Bentley.
Our son is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force in a capacity I wish not to divulge. His name translates to “you are not the only one that has money.” He was named by telephone by the chief of our tribe in Nigeria. I believe that numerous copies of the entire arranged marriage, to my first and only wife, on video, exists in the vaults of the National Geographic Society, particularly for the traditional portion of the marriage.
What changed hands would have been hard to tell, but it would have included parcels and parcels of land between my family and hers. People flew in from Africa and Europe and America for the wedding and, as is the customer among the Yoruban people, money was placed in our hands during the evening reception. The reception was held at the oldest private members’ club in Nigeria, originally built for the colonial masters and visiting royalty from England. The Club, to this day, regularly hosts the president of Nigeria.
The musician who played at the wedding, King Sunny Ad, also serenaded the president of Nigeria, who was at the wedding. In fact, I don’t believe you can ever win the nomination of your party without visiting the Club three or four times during your campaign, because of the influence it wields. In fact, it is strange that years later, 2006, when I was threatened with 15 years in jail by the D.C. Superior Court for allegedly stealing money from a woman’s hand and casually brushing her elbow. In reality, I was parking her car for her and she was giving me a small reward. So I was perplexed, to say the least, why I was charged with “robbery with intent to cause grievous bodily harm,” that I eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in jail but served less than one day in order not to be deported.
The truth is that the woman was giving me a tip for ushering her car into a parking spot, and some local African American boy, of whom there are hundreds, had rushed in front of me and I was determined to get that spot first, just out of principle. Of course, after the wedding in 1990 I was urged to go to America because my father-in-law wanted to be close to his daughter, whom he dearly loved, and also because she had lived with me in England, prior to our marriage
I was not to experience homelessness until some 12 years later. I lived first in his home in Bethesda, on prestigious Wilson Lane,. and later in Rockville, before returning to England in 1995 for five years of college at the Avant Garde South Bank University in London.
In part four, I will concentrate on my meetings with Africa’s most famous civil rights leader, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Her son, from whom millions and millions of dollars have been made in not just the Broadway show of his life story last year, across America and his albums, but also a play that was sponsored by JayZ, Beyonce and Will Smith, but whose album with the members of Cream, has been called by “Rolling Stone” magazine in the early 70s the greatest live album ever made.